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New music education report State of the Nation released

The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Music Education, in partnership with the University of Sussex and the Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM), has released a new report entitled Music Education: State of the Nation which outlines the broad landscape of music education in England.

The new report, authored by Dr Alison Daubney (University of Sussex), Gary Spruce (Birmingham City University) and Deborah Annetts (ISM) with foreword from Diana Johnson MP and Andrew Percy MP, is the culmination of several months rigorous research into both music education and the broader education landscape in England. Digging deep into the government’s own figures whilst also bringing together academic research, surveys and analysis of current trends, State of the Nation asks serious questions regarding the direction of travel of current education policy.

The summary in brief:

  • The report is an important piece of research for all those who love music or are engaged in policy making within the education sector.

  • Report drills deep into the Government’s own figures regarding the impact of the Government’s flagship education policy, the English Baccalaureate (EBacc), on creative subjects. The Department of Education (DfE) define the EBacc as a ‘performance measure for schools, not a qualification for pupils’.

  • The EBacc, based on the 1904 Secondary Regulations, (the government’s major headline accountability measure) is driving creative subjects from our schools. And yet, even though the current version of the EBacc has been in place since 2015, only 38% of students in state-funded schools are entering it. This is against the Government’s target figure of 75% by 2022 (90% by 2025). And in 2017/2018 only 16.7% of students attained it, a fall of over 4% from 2016/2017.

  • Report reveals that the EBacc is negatively impact young people from groups experiencing high levels of social deprivation. Students are discouraged from taking creative subjects in order to focus on subjects that form part of the EBacc. Yet a higher percentage of secondary students eligible for free school meals (FSM) were temporarily or permanently excluded from school last year than achieved the EBacc.

  • Report challenges the Government’s position that music GCSE is broadly stable (Schools Minister Nick Gibb to the DCMS Select Committee, December 2018). In fact, the DfE’s own statistics show a fall of 17% in music GCSE since 2014/2015.

  • Report also uncovers the true position of the music education workforce. DfE teacher workforce data shows that at Key Stage 3, there has been a music teacher workforce drop of 26.7%. This reflects the encroachment of the EBacc into Key Stage 3.

  • So the question which policy makers must answer is whether the devastating impact on music education and other creative subjects caused by the EBacc is worth it?

  • A similar picture is being played out in our primary schools where SATs are driving out creative subjects, including music.

  • Report also assesses the latest proposals from Ofsted and raises concerns as to whether its current direction of travel will deliver the much needed broad and balanced curriculum in our schools.

  • Report sets out 18 recommendations for music education and the broader education landscape.

Of the report, APPG for Music Education co-chairs Diana Johnson MP and Andrew Percy MP said:

This report shows the scale of the crisis facing music education in England. It shows how Government policy around accountability measures and the curriculum has contributed to a sharp decline in opportunities for pupils to have access to a music education. Its recommendations show the breadth of the problem – but also how easily the Government could act to address some of the most pressing issues, at little or no financial cost.’

Deborah Annetts, Chief Executive of the Incorporated Society of Musicians said:

This is an important report which we hope will guide policy makers in music education and also broader education policy. This report shines a spotlight on just how much the EBacc has already destroyed in terms of our children’s education. Notwithstanding the Government’s target of EBacc take up 75% rising to 90% by 2025, the rate of take up remains obstinately at 38%. And only 17% of students will actually attain the EBacc.

And yet, never has there been a time when creative subjects in school has been more necessary. We are facing the fourth industrial revolution where creativity is vital. Music contributes £4.5bn a year to the UK’s economy whilst the creative industries is worth £101.5 billion. Reinforcing the gravity of the situation is Brexit. As a country we will need to deploy our soft skills more than ever and this means music and our other stand out creative industries. We need an education system which is up to these challenges. Headline accountability measures such as the EBacc, which are based on the 1904 Secondary Regulations, are not it. We call on the Secretary of State, Damien Hinds to take a fresh look at the EBacc, the trail of devastation it has caused and take action.’

Dr Alison Daubney, PhD Senior Teaching Fellow, University of Sussex and Mr Gary Spruce, Visiting Lecturer in Music Education, Birmingham City University said:

The wealth of data upon which this report is founded highlights urgent issues which need to be addressed. Increasingly, music is marginalised in the school curriculum as the focus on accountability measures force them to make decisions which erode access to music education and diminish the workforce. In doing so, the evidence shows that music in the wider school and young people's lives beyond school is also negatively impacted. It is time the Department for Education recognise their policies are failing and they must take the necessary steps to ensure that sustained high quality music education for all is a reality and not, as is currently the case, increasingly the preserve of those families that can afford to pay for it.

For further information please contact Francesca Treadaway:

Access the full report here:

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